Wow, those cliffs look high!

Wow, those cliffs look high!

Wow, those cliffs look high!

I can not go up on my own, I can not go down, either. I am faced with a decision: Do I trust God or panic?

“With God, all things are possible” is the Word’s response. I have the choice – do I listen to the negative thoughts and voices that are the familiar ones or do I leap out into the void (for all I know) of hope. I will HOPE. I can believe. I choose faith. I choose to believe the positive things about me and my life.

I believe (note present tense) my best days are ahead of me; my future is far from over, God’s plan for me is the same that He has always had, I am not the author and finisher of my own story.

I have always wanted to write stories, however, I have had an unfortunate lack of mental discipline in the past. Sticking to one subject, one idea, one voice is difficult and with ADD in spades, I have more inspiration and shiny objects than can get me off topic than imaginable.

Blogging, for me, is a way to get things out of my head and into the open. I then, perhaps, can avoid my enemy of overindulging in verbiage. Yes, I am back 19 hours later to confirm that verbiage is a word. That question in my head lead me off into many other directions – including the ‘oh shoot, it’s later than I thought, I need to _____________.’

OK, I’ve lost my compelling need to blog for the afternoon. This is it for today. The JOY of the Lord is my strength. From Nehemiah.

Focus on the Season

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I’m in a new season right now. I’m believing for great changes, but, as I posted last, it’s a process. I’m certain that God has many promises he has not yet fulfilled through me, and that he has created me with giftings that I can use to be creative and bless others. I know my season includes being quiet, listening and waiting on the Lord to specifically have the right word at the right time with the right heart. I know my giftings include encouragement, mercy, and hospitality. These have been fallow the past few years in my struggles with cancer and depression and illness, but, they are still there. As Pastor Stone always said, and it says somewhere in the book, that ‘God’s Gifts are Irrevocable.” A lot of problems occur because when I don’t have things flowing out from me, there’s nothing able to flow in. I have a picture in my mind of some standing water that’s gotten muddy and there have been dead leaves falling in it, and maybe some algae growing. That’s not supposed to be the way my gifts operate. The way I have had prophetically been spoken of is that the well that the enemy stopped up by making it muddy and filled with rocks and nasty water will be opened up so that I can overflow in blessing to others. I think that one of the reasons that I’ve had so many difficult battles in my life is that my heart has always wanted to be used to minister. Misguided or off-course, it’s always the intent and desire of my heart that I’ve had all along; that I would show fruit in my life that could be used to bless others and glorify God.

In looking back so far, I can’t point to any particular season and say it had a lot of fruit and that has been a frustration to me. I have had times where I knew God was using my feeble efforts and I knew it wasn’t because of me, maybe more likely in spite of me. But just as I came and lay my small offering before the Lord, he was able to do miracles with it. I also know that I may only be seeing the backside of the tapestry, partly finished, with all my knots and threads that are uneven and mismatched. I won’t see the completion until my race is finished. I hope that I will show myself approved by his Grace. Thank God that his mercies are ‘new every morning’. I love the recent song by Matthew West that talks about wishing and getting over it to move on into “Day 1 of the Rest of My Life”. Please, I hope that I don’t sound overly spiritual or holy. I’m certainly not. I have a lot of things that are in my head that haven’t made it out of the muddiness and down into my heart. The difference is that right now, I am choosing to believe and live in faith – after all, faith is what we have before things are seen. I will continue to hope and pray.

My list of accomplishments has been short – probably because of a lot of stubbornness against authority. I felt, from a young age, that I had to take care of myself or no one else would. That was before I met Jesus but I carried it on past my salvation. I know I mixed Him up with my natural father, and then had 9 years of a legalistic, judgmental and at times hypocritical church background. I know so many were hurt during the 80’s by what happened at the church where I accepted Jesus as my savior. I also had so many experiences that left me in no doubt that God was real and Jesus truly loved me. I just didn’t think he liked me very well because of my bad decisions. I left the church when I went to college and experienced the ‘distancing’ of many who I had loved and admired and knew as friends. I know, now, that I certainly wasn’t any better off on my own and others also had old scars from that time, too. By the end of my 6 years of isolation, I’d made a big mess of my life, but my friend Ron brought me down the Romans Road and I gave the mess back to Jesus. I keep doing that every time I think of it, because I still have a heavy handed tendency to take the reins of my will back, even when I think I’m submitting to His will.

In any case, I’m certain only of his love for me and that he planned me, knowing my every decision and every hearts’ cry and fear and pain and loss. He also knew my joys and enthusiasm, my spontaneity and impulsiveness that makes life so very interesting (at least if you are living in my head.) The name, Jill, means youthful heart, and I think I’ll always have it. Like Peter Pan, who never wanted to grow up, I believe there is always another adventure, place to go, people to meet, and I’m ready to go follow Aslan Further Up and Further In.  I’ve been tenacious, at least I’m told that I am. Perhaps it’s just that I don’t know any better. But, I do like to think of myself as young at heart. Ya Gotta Live my mom and Auntie Mame used to say.

Lets be honest here, I didn’t mind growing up in some ways – I certainly wouldn’t want to go back. But… I think that there will always be in me a child-like wonder in enjoying things that other people might think of as silly or simple. Escaping in my imagination has long been a…well…an escape, but, it also gave me a ton of ideas and thoughts that I just love bouncing against each other.

A friend of mine recently gave me an assignment that I believe was from the Lord to help. Instead of thinking of so many things to share, perhaps I can focus on praying for the ‘one’  thing that will minister and help the most. My ADD and child-like quality of excitement about ideas makes it difficult to focus, so I find I struggle to express myself and end up using too many words. I need to be like an arrow sent out with my words, so that I can hit the mark that my Lord has for me as a target.

“Just wait until you are through chemo, then you’ll feel better.”

IMG_0529Maybe for some, but that wasn’t my journey.

The school year following my marriage, my mom died, and having surgery was really tough. Work started feeling more and more like a war zone with an increasingly nasty, unpredictable and vicious administration that left me feeling bullied and with PTSD type responses of panic and anxiety. Here’s the quick synopsis: After having surgery in 2012, getting sick with cellulitis, having rampant infection and necrosis of my wounds (which was a devastating experience), I got sick and weaker. After that, finding cancer just felt increasingly surreal which was in October 2012.

I had the cancer and did as I was supposed to do. It was Ovarian and had spread to the Uterus, or maybe it was the other way around, I really don’t remember. I had the hysterectomy, they didn’t remove my lymph nodes because they thought it was contained in the uterus and they pulled my ovaries.  To make things worse, post-hysterectomy, my hormone change threw me into a menopause that I thought I had already experienced. In 2007, my hormone levels were supposedly post-menopausal. I was officially through menopause. But, after the hysterectomy, I started having hot flashes and emotional responses. I talked with the surgeon who was my cutter and her response was that, “oh, those ovaries must have still being doing something, it happens to women sometimes.” That. Totally. Sucked. And, oh, since it was ovarian cancer, they needed to do radiation therapy and chemo. That, I hadn’t expected. I thought we were done with the hysterectomy. Nope. Not even close to finished.

Radiation was okay until the very nearly last one. That one burned like fire. I don’t think things have ever quite recovered. (Sadly, they also don’t really mention that nasty little possibility about some folks’ love-life post hysterectomy – it can hurt like hell! And, since I had cancer, Estrogen is/was out, so no hormonal replacement for me.) Just keeping it real, folks. Not a fun reality but working on it, or at least thinking about working on it.

As for chemo,  I briefly posted (can it really be two years ago since that started??) that the beginning of chemo itself wasn’t too horrible. I did have a ‘chemo headache’ migraine where my head felt too big for my skull. I also had a bit of nausea as things went on, but, that was nothing compared to my other side effects.  That’s where we are catching up from the time I last blogged.

During chemo, It just kept getting more difficult to function. I was repeating myself.  I started panicking. I felt depressed. I couldn’t focus on reading and was easily distracted. I also felt misunderstood, and emotional; when things went wrong and I thought I was being pretty logically reasonable I shouldn’t have had to be feeling like this…..ugh. Then my Oncologist let me know that ‘Chemo Brain’ is an actual real thing. There it was. I had it. The crazy thing – no one knows who will or won’t get it, and they don’t know how bad it will be or not, and they don’t know if the brain recovers or not, either. My reality was…nope. I felt worse after chemo was over. I felt disoriented and confused, like I’d lost a good portion of my brain cells, and slowly it dawned on me: When I had chemo, the poison that was running through my veins to kill the cancer also killed *a lot* of things that I’d been relying on in life.

Post-chemo my body kept continuing to crap out on me. My pain levels increased, migraines became even more frequent and my joints hurt. Additionally, my auto-immune system had decreased to nothing by the end of chemo and I had gotten a NASTY virus running through my system that left me with rampant diarrhea that continued even after the virus was gone completely. Gluten intolerance seemed ruled out (however I have heard since then that the blood test is not exactly accurate) and IBS seemed an initial consensus, but I’m still going through finding out any other reasons for it or maybe I have some sort of leaky gut or who knows what. My next colonoscopy and EGD will be this coming weekend. Who knows, it might be all nutrition choices, it might be a combination of things. But we shall see. In any case, I’m still alive and kicking.

Since chemo, I have permanent lymphedema. I have compression garments, I have the Flowtron machine with the thigh high booties, I sleep with a triangle wedge to keep my legs elevated, but I still have it, plus, half the time I can’t sleep and never without some kind of med. Other side effects of chemo are that I had nerve damage and increased pain from arthritis, back pain, neck pain, and muscle swelling. Migraines are continual, and if my head doesn’t hurt, something else does. If I exercise, I pay for it. But I still need to. My bones are getting weaker every year and weight bearing exercise helps prevent further incursions of osteoporosis which I already have in my wrists as well as my hip and spine. Speaking of hips, I have right hip plus knee pain. Half the time my fingers get numb as a result of neuropathy.

After chemo, I felt punch drunk after a few too many hits. I felt like Rocky with my eyes swelled shut, beaten up yelling, “Adriaaaan”, but I didn’t experience the immediate comeback planned in the script. This was not a make believe movie scene. I was down and out for the count, l  felt like a total and complete failure who didn’t know who I was, compared to who I used to be, but still better off than who I used to be before that. I still believed that God was in control, but I was getting pretty tired of myself. After chemo, I felt so tired, fat, and depressed. I had fear and loathing of what I was becoming or falling back into, depending how I looked at it, and  I felt about as smart as a snail. I talked too much, I went from high to low in seconds, and started basing my self-perception on how I felt others were viewing me. In a word, the past two years were hell inside of me. All of my negative self-doubts circled about my confused brain, aided by the attacks of the enemy of our souls who, like a vulture, circles ready to steal, kill, and destroy whatever he can.

But God.

God has brought friends and angels in ways that he shows me he cares for me. Last August I was feeling particularly low one day. I went and talked with someone at church asking for prayer and I remembered leaving feeling like an utter and complete failure. Not even ten minutes later, a friend, Kat, whom I’ve not spoken with in years called me, and said, “Jill, God wants you to know you are NOT a failure.” That was an amazing encouragement for both of us and sustained me for weeks.

I know God loves me and he hasn’t given up on me. I am 50 years old and still learning. I have learned that I can choose the thoughts I allow access to my brain. I am NOT my thoughts. I don’t have to allow them all to shake around in my brain like a terrier shaking a squeaky toy.

I’m certain God dropped the idea of a service dog into my heart. My Oncologist and other doctors agreed a service animal would help with my disabilities. We got a mix of miniature Poodle and Wheaten Terrier. Harry was love at first sight for me and my husband. He wasn’t the cutest one of the three pups, but he wrapped us both around his paw with a lick and a snuggle. Thankfully, he is VERY smart, as well as adorably cute (even if his brother Joey was a tad, just a tad cuter, initially.) He helps me in a myriad number of ways. He picks up things when I can’t feel my fingers, brings in the paper or other things I point to, encourages me to get out and walk a little, helps me to open the door, to get out of bed, and while I was working on training him, he gave me a tiny bit of purpose and something else to think about. Harry brings love and contentment and joy to me. At times, I have felt the presence of God embodied by three furry bodies next to mine while lying on my bed, and felt him whisper to me how much he loves me. I have the simple joy of sitting in my backyard and seeing the dog and cat chase each other. Gracie and Harry are good friends while Thomas and Harry tolerate each other. My world has become very small. That’s ok. I’m enjoying it. The wind in the trees soothes me, the warm sun feels good on my “old” bones until the time of year when it’s a bit too hot for even this Seattle transplant. Yes, I know age is relative, and maturity isn’t my strongest point, but I do like enjoying life in all of it’s adventure. I’m just readier than I used to be to see Jesus as a part of the biggest adventure of my life. Further up and Further in. Until God wants me, Breathing is a good thing.

God is teaching me that his way is the reverse of a negative spiral which is my ‘old school’ way of reacting to things. I have to keep believing even when everything around me points to chaos. God says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; do you not yet perceive it? I am bringing a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” I’ll take it. I know that God is true, he is faithful, and he is loving.

My whole idea for this blog was about being happy in moments by choice. It was to become healthy,  to embrace healthy living and thinking.  It’s been a long detour, but I think I am there again, to feel vulnerable, look at new ways of thinking and be real with uncomfortable things; to continue being real without whining or complaining or venting. I choose to be happy because it makes me healthy. I can be a positive influence without being a plastic barbie princess or a woe is me victim. I am a victor, not a victim. I am a daughter of the King and he sees me as precious.

I started going to Celebrate Recovery – a place for people with hurts, hangups, and habits. I started in October 2014, and then went back in November 2014 and have continued since then. I have met some other women who have faced obstacles with courage. Things can change. I can change. It’s not too late. I am looking for miracles. Inside me is more important than the outside of me. I want to be changed from the inside out which is the promise I have always been given.

I feel hope now. I am hoping that 2015 will be the best year in a long time. I am looking forward to progress, not perfection. I am committed to seeing fruit in my life. Maybe I can use my mess to help someone else. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I started to believe again. God has a plan for me. I believe it. I believe in him. The best days are ahead of me. It may not be different physically, but it can be inside me.

I’ll be back. I think writing helps. I know I have something to say. Hopefully it well help someone.